Business group has Coakley’s ear

Attorney General Martha Coakley renewed her call this week for revisions to the state’s Green Communities Act, a position that has put her at odds with many in the environmental community but in sync with some of the state’s top business executives.

Coakley first suggested tweaking the Green Communities Act in testimony before a legislative committee back in November. She warned that the cost of implementing the law over the next four years will be $4 billion, resulting in a 7 percent increase in electricity rates.

The attorney general says she wants to reduce those costs and still achieve the original environmental goals. She mentioned in November that she favored “technology-neutral” policies on renewable energy, an approach favored by the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, a group of the state’s top business executives.

On Wednesday, in a speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Coakley again called for changes in the Green Communities Act and alluded to discussions she has held with executives from the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership.

Coakley said she had recently talked to executives at EMC Corp. and Raytheon about their energy costs. She said she learned that 30 percent of EMC’s global operations are based in Massachusetts, yet that 30 percent accounts for more than half of the total company’s energy expenditures. She said Raytheon had told her its costs increase a million dollars a year for every one-cent increase in the price of electricity.

“If we don’t address these costs, we are severely limiting your business’s ability to stay here and grow here,” she told the Chamber.

Sources say Coakley met with Joseph Tucci, the chief executive of EMC, and officials from Raytheon on Dec. 22 at EMC headquarters in Hopkinton. Tucci is on the energy committee of the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership. Raytheon’s CEO, William Swanson, is a member of the partnership.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

The business group is proposing that Massachusetts utilities be allowed to use large-scale hydroelectric power from Canada as well as power saved from energy efficiency projects to meet the Green Community Act’s renewable portfolio standards. The group says its approach would save ratepayers $10 billion and achieve the same emissions goals, but environmental activists say the plan would make it much more difficult to develop wind and solar power projects across the state.

Coakley spokesperson Melissa Karpinsky said the attorney general is meeting with a wide range of groups on energy issues, including environmental and business groups. Karpinsky said Coakley supports the Green Communities Act. “She also believes that we must look at ways to make it better by providing further savings for ratepayers and businesses, while maintaining its benefits,” she said.